The Most Important Question
There is all sorts of advice available to people who may be looking for a new financial advisor. Advocate groups, columnists and even advisors themselves will put forth a list of questions that they suggest you should ask a financial advisor. Commonly, we see recommendations like “Are you a fiduciary”, “What are your fees”, “How much experience do you have”, or “What types of investments do you work with?”
While these are all important questions, there is one that doesn’t get asked often enough: “How have you built your net worth?” Think about that one. If you have worked hard to save, invest, manage and even eliminate debt, contribute to your retirement accounts and/or build value in your business, wouldn’t you want to work with someone who has done the same? Wouldn’t you think there would be a greater likelihood of an advisor respecting your decades of sacrifice and discipline if they have themselves walked in your proverbial shoes? Wouldn’t you want someone who has made enough smart decisions with their own money to accumulate a respectable nest egg of their own? While it may be unreasonable for an advisor to share intimate personal financial details, they should at least have a story. They should at least be able to look you in the eye and with sincerity, tell you about their own disciplines, strategies and the investments they’ve personally committed to. Certainly younger advisors do not have the advantage of decades to compound their decisions, but they should also be able to tell you about the effort they are putting forth to build their own net worth.
Would you want a financial advisor who has themselves formally filed bankruptcy, discharging their debts onto others? Or has or have had tax liens against them, failing to pay their fair share to Uncle Sam? Buyer beware: they are out there. They can even avoid legally disclosing that to you by holding a single securities license that avoids FINRA* registration and regulation, and still work with other people’s money, even one’s entire net worth.
When I seek coaching, I want someone who has successfully done it themselves. Health and wellness. Physical fitness and exercise. Parenting advice. Breaking barriers as a woman. Spiritual guidance. Business structure. Wouldn’t you want the same for your finances? If so, “How have you built your net worth” may then be the most important question.
*FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Visit Finra.org for more details
Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC.